Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

April 27, 2013

A second chance

Drug court, a blessing for one man.

By Mike Fletcher
Tribune crime reporter

— When Kokomo police arrested Christopher Scott in April 2007 for dealing in pain pills, it was a blessing in disguise.

Scott knew he had a problem and was ready to face the consequences, he said. His drugs of choice were methadone and hydrocodone.

“I pretty much knew I was done taking the pills,” the 35-year-old said recently. “It was a welcome time because that way I knew I could get clean. I was done with that life.”

After being booked into the Howard County jail on two felony charges of dealing in a controlled substance, he was offered the chance to participate in the newly formed Howard County Drug Court Program. He accepted.

“I was presented with the drug court by my lawyer and released in October [2007],” said Scott. “Basically they knew that I was an addict. I was going to a methadone clinic at the time trying to get help.”

After nearly two years of extensive probation visits and rehab, Scott successfully graduated from the program in 2009. He remains free from drugs today, he said.

“To be honest, it was easy for me,” he said. “The hardest part was changing different habits and lifestyles.”

Without the program, Scott faced between eight and 20 years in prison on one Class B felony conviction alone.

“I fully believe in the program,” said Scott. “Every person involved is completely genuine and wants to see people succeed and get out of the trap or sickness they put themselves in. I fully believe they all care what happens to people in program.”

Since its inception in 2007, 24 people, or 62 percent of its participants, have graduated from the Howard County Drug Court Program.

Two more people are on deck to graduate this year, said Laura Stiner, coordinator for the Drug Court.

Fifteen others did not make it and were terminated from the program.

Stiner said despite the failures, she feels the program is helping.

“As we know, addiction is a lifelong battle, and to me, failure is a very strong word in that sense,” Stiner said. “Even though we have been in operation for almost six years, we are still considered a young drug court. Because the program lasts a minimum of one year and a maximum of three years, graduation stats obviously take a bit longer to accrue. And termination rates are high in comparison in the beginning. But the gap between the numbers is growing more and more.”

As for Scott, Stiner said, he is “doing exceptionally well.”

“We also plan to be working with Chris [Scott] in the near future with hopes of starting an alumni group.”

The drug court focuses on addicts, not first-time offenders, and involves a team of a trained judicial and treatment workers who assess offenders to potentially be placed in the program.

The people who work to make the drug court possible include members of St. Joseph Hospital and Howard Regional Health System, Reba Harris of the Gilead House, police officers, jail officials and county council members.

“I believe it helped me,” Scott continued. “My life is absolutely amazing. I thank God for letting me participate and giving me that opportunity and the people God surrounded me with in the program and outside of the program.”

Now, Scott said, he is a successful car salesman and happy father and husband.

“Through the program I’ve established relationships with various people who have helped me. My wife and I are involved in a youth program at our church and throughout the city and the county. I’ve had two beautiful daughters since I’ve been in the program and my relationship with my 14-year-old son is wonderful,” he said. “It’s a great program. I’ll never put myself in that position again.

“I advise people that are given that opportunity to take advantage of it. It’s something that I think is very, very needed in this community. A lot of people benefit from the program, not just the individual but their families.”

The savings

If successful, the drug court saves taxpayers’ money by not having to incarcerate offenders for long terms, said Laura Stiner, coordinator for the Howard County Drug Court Program.

The cost to house an adult offender in the Indiana Department of Correction is approximately $58.99 per day, or $21,531.35 per year.

In Christopher Scott’s case, if he had been sentenced for example to 10 years, his completion of drug court saved the state more than $200,000.

Since the Howard County jail is primarily a pre-trial/detention facility, it doesn’t have the programs offered by the state, so the costs per day are lower — approximately $38.75 per day or $14,143.75 per year, Stiner said.

“Based on recent estimates, each successful drug court participant saves the county in excess of $8,000 in direct incarceration costs and the state in excess of $65,000,” said Stiner.

“In effect, one successful participant per year would result in enough specific incarceration savings to fully fund the drug court program,” she added.

The program is primarily self-funded and is the only drug court in the state, and possibly in the country, to offer intensive outpatient therapy and continuing care through the local hospitals at no cost to current participants.

The participants are assessed a drug court fee of $50 per month up to $500 which, along with grant money, helps pay for drug screens, graduations and training as needed and as required by the state, Stiner said.

Mike Fletcher, Tribune crime reporter may be reached at 765-454-8565, or via e-mail at mike.fletcher@kokomotribune.com.

For more on this story and other local news, subscribe to The Kokomo Tribune eEdition, or our print edition